Ironically, since its debut at the Cannes Festival in France last year, We Need to Talk About Kevin has been the film everyone’s talking about. In retrospect, director Lynne Ramsay’s 9 year hiatus seems perfectly calculated, much like the actions of the movie’s title character Kevin. The film, which is based on a 2003 novel of the same name, has officially been in the works since 2005. Sometimes, good things are worth the wait.
We Need to Talk About Kevin follows Eva (played by Swinton), the mother of a teenage boy who executes a brutal massacre at his suburban high school. From a very early age, Eva senses something distinctly off with her first born child Kevin (played by Miller). As the years pass, Kevin’s actions become more and more destructive. Eva tries to confide in her husband Franklin (played by Reilly), yet he wants no part of it. “He’s a sweet boy” replies Franklin. Therefore, knowing she never did enough to prevent this horrific killing spree from happening, Eva spends every waking day bearing responsibility for the tragedy.
Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton leads a phenomenal cast in one of the year’s most explosive films. The actress is spot on in her role as an emotionally drained mother coping with a tremendous amount of grief and regret. The beauty behind We Need to Talk About Kevin rests in the psychology of its lead character Eva. As Swinton demonstrates perfectly, Eva’s guilt stems from two different places. First, she feels responsible for not stopping the monster she has seen brewing inside of Kevin since he was a child. Also, Eva sees far too much of herself in her son. All of her darkest qualities are brought out by Kevin and, as a result, she welcomes the abuse delivered by her community after the tragic events transpire. Such a brutally honest portrayal should have landed Swinton a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars, however, her exclusion from the ceremony was unforgivable. In addition to Swinton, Ezra Miller gives a fantastic performance as Kevin. Miller is remarkable in his role as a cold and cynical teenager. He takes command of every scene and it culminates in a spine chilling experience. Hence, We Need to Talk About Kevin succeeds, in large part, because of its amazing cast.
Lynne Ramsay does a spectacular job of masterminding an intense psychological thriller. The film creates an obsession for the audience, a desperate desire to know why Kevin has done what he’s done. All of this intrigue makes for a thought provoking movie experience. In a clever fashion, Ramsay gives enough scattered pieces of the puzzle to allow the viewer to put it all together. We Need to Talk About Kevin is wonderfully crafted and brilliantly executed. Therefore, it’s hands down one of the best films of the year.
As always, there will be a few naysayers and skeptics. Many will argue that the actions exemplified in Kevin’s early years are unrealistic and unbelievable. The young boy illustrates a stunning amount of understanding throughout his childhood. To me, however, this only strengthens the story and solidifies its authenticity. You should never take for granted the intelligence of children. And although the film progresses slowly, We Need to Talk About Kevin constantly builds in intensity and you’ll never want to peel your eyes from the screen.
Finally reaching cities across the United States in a limited release, We Need to Talk About Kevin‘s theatrical release schedule can be seen here. Now that the film is available in most cities from coast to coast, it’s a must see. And even though the movie revolves around a high school massacre, much of the violence is left to the imagination. Therefore, no excuse is good enough to miss this film.
Stars: 3 and a half stars out of 4
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